6 Tips to Consider for Your Employee Handbook

By lfsuser on February 20, 2015

Recently, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) focused on a wide range of employer policies and procedures. For example, recently in December 2014, the NLRB held that if an employer allows its employees to use its email system at work, the employer must presumptively allow use of that employer-provided email system for “statutorily protected communications on non-working time.” Back in January 2014, the NLRB also struck down hospital rules that prohibited employees from making “negative comments about coworkers and from engaging in or listening to negativity or gossip.”

In light of these and other rulings, employers need to carefully craft and revise their employee handbooks, employee agreements, and other policies to comply with ever-changing rules and regulations. A baseline rule to always follow when creating and revising your policies and procedures is to consider whether you need a particular policy or procedure and, if so, whether they really need to be included in an employee handbook. Below, we have listed a couple of common mistakes seen in employer’s policies and procedures:

  1. Make sure to regularly update your policies and procedures. A common mistake made by employers is to hire a consultant or law firm to draft an employee handbook and then stop making any updates. For example, many safety policies and procedures require regular updates, the failure of which may result in an OSHA citation.
  2. Avoid overly long and detailed employee handbooks and standard operating procedures. For one, the longer the handbook, the more likely your supervisors will deviate from your policies. Also, a lengthy handbook will prove to be practically difficult to keep adequately updated.
  3. Make sure your documents accurately reflect the realities of your workplace. For example, many job descriptions are developed without determining the actual duties and responsibilities a particular job entails. This becomes important when an employee alleges that he/she was misclassified as an exempt employee when he/she should have instead been classified as a non-exempt employee.
  4. Avoid policies that require employees to be “100 percent recovered” before they may return to regular duty. This erroneous language is typically seen in leave, return-to-duty, and workers compensation policies. An accurate policy must require an employee and employer to engage in an interactive process to determine if the employee can perform the essential functions of the job, with or without reasonable accommodation.
  5. Consult with your particular division or department’s needs before drafting a set of policies and procedures. Developing a comprehensive policy or set of procedures is likely to bear little resemblance to particular ways a division, site, or department conducts its business.
  6. Even where periodic updates are not required, changes may require not only revision, but additional training as in the case of introducing supervisors to new meal break policies or the tracking of paid sick leave given to employees.

This document is intended to provide you with general information about legal developments. The contents of this document are not intended to provide specific legal advice. If you have questions about the contents of this alert, please contact Hannibal Odisho at 415-697-3463 or at hodisho@aghwlaw.com. This communication may be considered advertising in some jurisdictions.